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Places and Spaces in French War Fiction of the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries


Peter Tame

This monograph is the first book to examine places and spaces in French war fiction of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These places and spaces are presented as literary isotopias, or fictional «worlds», and analysed in a selective corpus of thirty-three novelists and forty-two examples of war fiction. The book identifies and classifies the various types of isotopia that appear in fiction in the form of scenes, images or literary microcosms. The author establishes four isotopic modes – possession, dispossession or loss, alienation, and repossession – by which means the isotopias are expressed. The spaces considered include territorial demands, gains, possessions, losses and national spaces, as well as internal mental spaces.
The corpus of novels selected for this project covers a wide variety of examples of fictional worlds: the spiritual, the marginal, the regional, the ideological, the psychological, the erotic, the ecological and the political. The methods of analysis identify these worlds, demonstrate both how they function in relation to the characters in the novels and how they affect the reader, and provide further illumination on the intentions, achievements and ideologies of the characters and of the novelists concerned. One of the findings of the study is that the greater the stress of war and conflict the more authors and characters tend to seek refuge in their imaginary (isotopic) worlds.
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Conclusion to Part 3


Although all four isotopic modes are present in the three novels of invasion that reflect the defeat of France in 1940, possession figures infrequently. This is perfectly understandable, given the situation of the nation at the time and the fact that France is portrayed by most novelists who write from the French point of view as the victim of military aggression and take-over by the Germans. However, when the German point of view is adopted in the fiction, as in the case of the protagonist of Le Silence de la mer by Vercors or of Les Bienveillantes, possession becomes a natural isotopic mode for narration by German characters who desire France as a nation-space and, particularly, as a cultural space that Germany itself does not, and cannot, offer. It is, nevertheless, important to remember that the German protagonists concerned are essentially French creations that spring from the imaginations of essentially French authors, with the result that, even when they appear to be expressing a German point of view, it is necessarily distorted by the novelist’s own national and cultural perspective.

In Le Silence de la mer, the German officer, Werner von Ebrennac, desires possession of France in the sense, for example, that he wishes he could be ‘le fils d’un village pareil à ce village’ [the son of a village like this village], an ‘adopted son’ of a community similar to the one in which he lives briefly for the duration of the tale. He spends his...

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